Thursday, July 30, 2015

Migrants, Dehumanized

After initially likening dark-skinned refugees from war-torn and poverty-stricken Africa and the Middle East to diseased tunnel rats, the New York Times has belatedly and quietly changed the lead of its July 29 article, "Britain and France Scramble as Channel Becomes Choke Point in Migration Crisis."

Here are the original opening paragraphs as prominently displayed on the top of the online home-page yesterday: 
Britain and France scrambled on Wednesday to address the latest flash point in Europe’s festering migrant crisis after a second consecutive night in which hundreds of people living in squalid camps in northern France sought to force their way through the Channel Tunnel.
British ministers and officials held emergency talks in London as pressure mounted on both sides of the English Channel for tighter security around the tunnel and for broader measures to defuse the situation, the most recent to highlight the scale of illegal migration from the Middle East, Africa and other poor and war-torn regions into Europe.
They've since been revised to read:
 They have reached Europe after often-treacherous journeys, usually across the Mediterranean. They have dodged the authorities as they made their way north toward their ultimate goal, Britain. But now, thousands of illegal migrants, refugees from war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, find themselves bottled up at one final choke point in northern France: the entrance to the Channel Tunnel.
Over two nights this week, their desperation and frustration flared to new levels as they tried in far larger numbers than normal to breach the security around the tunnel and hide themselves amid the trucks and freight being shuttled by rail from Calais to southern England.
Wow, it's a miracle. Overnight, the migrants evolved from swarming invasive hordes into human beings --  albeit still "illegal." Of course, the Times revision is now buried well off the home-page. The original article was, unsurprisingly enough, a magnet for self-righteous xenophobic rants from all across the A-B political spectrum. But many astute commenters also noted the connection between the current migrant crisis and decades of American/NATO imperialism.

I wrote my own comment in response to the original lead:
 This article immediately dehumanizes the migrants by describing their existential plight as a "festering" crisis.

From the online Free Dictionary, definitions of festering:

1.venomous, vicious, smouldering, virulent, black-hearted; recrimination and festering resentment.

2. septic, infected, poisonous, inflamed, pussy, suppurating, ulcerated, purulent, maturating, gathering, afflicted by festering sores.

3. rotting, decaying, decomposing, putrefying The cobbles were littered with festering garbage.

Words matter, New York Times. This type of coded language gives credence to Donald Trump-style xenophobia.

Meanwhile, David Cameron wrings his delicate hands over the delays being suffered by affluent vacationers.

Where's the pity? Where's the empathy? Where are the prosecutions of the Bush-era war criminals who created this whole human catastrophe in the first place?
Many of the "festering" migrants are from Libya and Syria, destabilized by the Bush-era successors.

My favorite comment is by a Daily Kos reader named "dconrad," who channeled Donald Trump:
"If I am elected president I will build a wall in the middle of the English channel to keep these immigrants, who are rapists by the way, out of England and I will make France pay for it. The French are lightweights, and, frankly, losers. I don't respect anyone who got invaded by the Germans. And I will build a Trump hotel and casino on top of that wall, because I'm extremely successful and, I don't like to brag, but I'm very rich and if you don't believe me, just read The Art of the Deal, the greatest book ever written."


Valerie said...

There is a great bumper sticker I had on my car for years, "If you want peace, work for justice."

People who are desperate, will do desperate things. These people fleeing France have nothing to lose. They have been patient and most have played by the rules. They are fast realising that the strategy of compliance is getting them nowhere. As the protesters during the Civil Rights Movement said, "I am a man!" - They simply wanted their human-ness and basic human rights to be recognised. These refugees are the same - they are people - human beings who love their families, are frightened and frustrated, who want a decent job and a chance to make something of their lives. They want a future - but the only thing their futures seem to hold is hopelessness. Of course, this is going to reach a boiling point and explode. Why would any thinking person think otherwise?

This particular situation is blowback and there is going to be more blowback in the way of desperate political and environmental refugees if the U.S. keeps up with this corporate exploitation of people and the planet whilst stoking wars as the new normal. This is ALL about corporations not giving a crap about the people who are harmed by their exploitative policies and the governments and their representatives who refuse to work in the best interests of their people - and the Transpacific Partnership being in final negotiation stages in Hawaii as we read and write is at the top of the corporate coup strategy!

We can no longer afford to be apathetic and wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting. We must speak up. We need a large public outcry. We need to flood social media and the blogosphere - since we know that the corporate media and most of our politicians will do nothing but go along with what is best for the corporations.

The only bright thing I have heard this month has been the anti-nuclear pact with Iran which is pretty much a peace agreement. I know, I know - the U.S. is doing it because they want Iranian oil, but this will bring much relief to the beleaguered Iranian people.

Let us learn from past mistakes. The reason we have had problems with Iran for the past 40 years is due to our own complicity in disrupting a moderate and democratically elected government at the behest of a giant multinational corporation (and the British Government working in the interest of BP) against a desperately poor and uneducated populace.

Let's actually recongnise that like the Iranian people, these refugees matter every bit as much as we do and "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Let's fight the racism that equates desperately poor people with vermin.

Valerie said...

A great article over at NakedCapitalism giving a brief history of the Iran situation for any readers who are interested.

A brilliant essay by Chris Hedges about what it is really like for these refugees in France and why they are so hopeless

Jay–Ottawa said...


The Hedges essay you linked was prompted by the Hebdo Massacre, but it can serve as a template to fairly interpret recurring blowbacks by fanatics from the Mediterranean basin. The double standard so prevalent in Western Europe and North America is easy to comprehend when we realize our political leaders aided by a lazy media unfailingly teach an uninformed citizenry that Chapter One of its Response to Terrorism begins without prologue.

How strange that one American administration after another must turn from its peaceful endeavors to deal with surprise attacks sprung from vengeance by foreigners who have no cause to have a belly full of hate. The Hostage Crisis (1979-1981): no cause. “The despicable act” of the Beirut Barracks Bombing (1983): no cause. Bush Père’s reimposition of Woodrow Wilson’s “new world order”: no problem. The bombing of US embassies in East Africa (1998): no cause. 9/11: literally out of the blue. Chaos now being exported from North Africa and the Middle East: can’t blame the US for that.

Carol S. said...

Karen, aside from your incredible humanity, capacity for reason and opinions I never fail to agree with, you are a witty and beautiful writer. I notice you reference Candide a lot. I remember reading that in a course on introduction to philosophy, and comparing Voltaire's book with the writer who captured me in the eighth grade (and still does), the humanitarian, Charles Dickens, and feeling bored because I'd heard all Voltair's opinions expressed so poetically and humorously by Dickens. Of course I understand Voltaire's extreme importance and no doubt Dickens was influenced by him, but I guess I just wanted to say I would put you more in the category of Dickens than Voltaire.

The NY Times' commenters are as a whole, so adverse to immigration. I can't figure that out.

As to Maureen Dowd's Sunday column on Biden, I was so struck by the ludicrous reasons readers support him and your very researched reasons for not doing so.